PTTGC Delays Decision on Belmont Cracker Plant

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – PTT Global Chemical America has once again delayed a decision whether to make a final investment on a proposed multi-billion dollar ethane “cracker” plant in Belmont County in southeastern Ohio.

According to a report in the Bangkok Post, the Thailand-based company needs more time to cut costs related to the project as it searches for new lenders.

“We will also have more time to search for a new strategic partner before making a final decision,” PTTGC Chief Executive Kongkrapan Intarajang said, according to the newspaper.

PTTGC said last year it would make a final decision by the middle 2021, after South Korea-based Daelim Industrial, a major chemical and construction firm announced it was backing out of the joint venture.

The company announced six years ago that it was considering building a $5.7 billion ethane cracker plant at Dilles Bottom on the Ohio River. The state of Ohio under Gov. John Kasich awarded the project $70 million through its economic development agency, JobsOhio.

Belmont County proved an ideal location for the project, since it sits in the heart of the Marcellus and Utica-Point Pleasant shale formation. Since 2007, major energy companies have drilled in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale and Ohio’s Utica to tap into vast reservoirs of natural gas, which includes “wet” gas such as ethane.

Cracker plants convert ethane into polyethylene, which is a core ingredient found in most plastics.

PTTGC’s project would employ thousands of construction workers at the site and create hundreds of full-time jobs in an economically distressed area of Appalachia.

Since then, PTTGC America has consistently pushed back a final investment decision to move ahead with the project.

The Ohio River Valley Institute, an organization that has been critical of the PTTGC project, said that the company’s delay comes as no surprise.

“The economic barriers facing this project and other elements of an imagined petrochemical hub were called out a year ago when seven prominent economists, policy analysts and a former Pennsylvania secretary of Environmental Protection wrote to the governors of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia that the vision was an economic non-starter,” the organization said in a statement Thursday. “That’s why state and local policymakers need to set aside notions of economic development based on fossil fuel and petrochemical industries and explore better, more sustainable economic development strategies.”

Further north, Royal Dutch Shell is in the process of completing its $6 billion ethane cracker plant near Monaca, Pa. along the Ohio River.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.